Live Debate: Is Free Will an illusion? To what extent are humans the authors of their own morality?
Best comment wins a copy of Free WIll by Sam Harris!
Lets imagine an omniscience (all-knowing) alien arrives to Earth to silently observe our behavioral patterns. He immediately notices that our brain processes dictate almost all of our direct actions. When presented with certain stimuli humans react the same way 99.9% of the time. He also notices that there is an extra layer to the determination of our behavior. Our environments and previous experiences in these environments add another dimension to how we react to certain circumstances. Thus an uneducated individual who grows up in poverty stricken area ridden with crime is more liked to engage in criminal activity. Easy enough. The alien’s work seems to be done, and the results are pretty straightforward. Human behavior seems to be simply predetermined circumstances of genes, brain processes, and environment.
Exhibit 1: Sam Harris on the Illusion of Free Will
However, prior to packing up and leaving the alien notices something interesting and somewhat peculiar. These humans seem to have some underlying notion of free-will. They believe that every individual is the direct author of his or her own actions and must be held accountable for those actions. Further we’ve structured our moral codes, institutions, society, and cultural norms around this notion. In fact accountability is essential in these structures otherwise they all fall apart. So that less fortunate uneducated individual mentioned earlier is fully personally responsible for any crime that he or she commits. This seems misguided and paradoxical to the alien based on his previous observations. However, the alien is aware that complex structures and quantum theory could potentially allow for a divergence from the standard concepts of causality of behavior.
What is the aliens conclusion? To what extent are humans the authors of their own morality? Is free-Will an illusion? Have we structured an inherently flawed society based on misguided notions of the causality of our behaviors? What can we do to improve society so we are not unfairly punishing the less fortunate who tend to more consistently engage in "deviant" behavior" as a result of their environment?
Please provide your thoughts below for a chance to win a copy of Free Will by Sam Harris. The rules of engagement are simple: The participant with the most positive votes on his single comment wins. You have ~4 weeks to complete your mission.
Your minds is a tank… Let’s go to war…
Exhibit 2:Why Quantum Physics Ends the Free WIll Debate